US Ambassador Haley announced her country’s decision to pull out of the UN Human Rights Council, noting its “chronic bias against Israel.”
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
The United States is leaving the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, which Ambassador Nikki Haley called “an organization that is not worthy of its name.”
Haley said Tuesday the US had given the human rights body “opportunity after opportunity” to make changes. She lambasted the council for “its chronic bias against Israel” and lamented the fact that its membership includes accused human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights,” Haley said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appearing alongside Haley at the State Department, said there was no doubt that the council once had a “noble vision.”
“But today we need to be honest,” Pompeo said. “The Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights.”
The announcement came just a day after the UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, denounced the Trump administration for separating migrant children from their parents.
But Haley cited longstanding US complaints that the 47-member council is biased against Israel. She had been threatening the pull-out since last year unless the council made changes advocated by the US
“Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” Haley said.
Decision need not be permanent
Still, she suggested the decision need not be permanent, adding that if the council did adopt reforms, “we would be happy to rejoin it.” She said the withdrawal notwithstanding, the US would continue to defend human rights at the United Nations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office called the US decision “courageous,” adding that it was “an unequivocal statement that enough is enough.”
Since January 2017, the Trump administration has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, left the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal.
Opposition from human rights advocates to the US decision to withdraw from the council was swift. A group of 12 organizations, including Save the Children, Freedom House and the United Nations Association-USA, said there were “legitimate concerns” about the council’s shortcomings but that none of them warranted a US exit.
“This decision is counterproductive to American national security and foreign policy interests and will make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world,” the organizations said in a joint statement.
Added Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch: “All Trump seems to care about is defending Israel.”
On Twitter, al-Hussein said it was “disappointing, if not really surprising, news. Given the state of #HumanRights in today’s world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back.”
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank close to the Trump administration, defended the move, calling the council “notably incurious about the human rights situations in some of the world’s most oppressive countries.” Brett Schaefer, a senior fellow, pointed out that Trump could have withdrawn immediately after taking office but instead gave the council 18 months to make changes.
Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for discussion at every council session, under “Item 7” on the agenda. Item 7 on “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories” has been part of the council’s regular business almost as long as it has existed.
The US pullout is likely to make it easier for the UNHRC to pass resolutions against Israel.
The US is Israel’s biggest defender in UN bodies.